Picks and Pans Review: Strictly Commercial: the Best of Frank Zappa

updated 12/11/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/11/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Frank Zappa

These Mothers is crazy." So declared Suzy Creamcheese, a fictitious everyfan who popped from Frank Zappa's head into the liner notes of the Mothers of Invention's debut album, Freak Out!, in 1966. Now, nearly 30 years after the release of that ambitious double album, and two years after the death of its medusa-haired composer at age 52, fans can make their own diagnosis; Rykodisc has released 53 of the 60-plus albums Zappa recorded with the Mothers and others. CDs without the added instrumentation that riled purists, the reissues come with the originals' always entertaining album artwork and liner notes intact.

This sampler of his FM radio hits offers novelties like "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" and "Valley Girl," but only one track, "Trouble Every Day," from Freak Out! Any compilation subtitled The Best of Frank Zappa that does not include "Brown Shoes Don't Make It," from Absolutely Free, doesn't make it. So buy this if you must—initiates will find plenty of Zappa's great satiric barbs and indisputably genius music making. But why not start where Ms. Creamcheese began? Play the first three Mothers albums, Freak, Free and We're Only in It for the Money, Zappa's hilarious sendup of hippie culture, with its Sgt. Pepper cover spoof. If you ain't hooked by then, you'll never be. If you are, it's forever. Then buy the radio hits—you'll enjoy them all the more.

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